The dream of being drafted or invited to an NHL development camp is achieved, so now what? Well as many first timers to any kind of NHL camp found out Wednesday, all that hard work and commitment it took to get noticed pales in comparison to what comes next.
That “what” is made up of more long days, starting at 7 in the morning. For some in attendance, this next step on the journey is taken on now, in order to leave any kind of impression with all the Sabres hockey front office staff watching closely. Many of these players are likely being seen in person by some very important eyes for the very first time. There are so many sayings about first impressions. Insert yours here.
Having been in the NHL for the past five seasons as a play-by-play broadcaster, it’s been harder to get out to junior rinks or college rinks to see the next crop of NHL hopefuls. So count me in as one of those seeing many of these players for the first time.
Those who are back for another development camp clearly stood out from many of the first timers on day one. In the first session, Justin Bailey and Evan Rodrigues separated themselves from the bunch in my eyes. The way Bailey carried himself on day one of D-camp shows the Williamsville, N.Y. native is ready to take his “next step.”
After the first session of the day, the former Kitchener Ranger said this time around in camp, he is trying to prove himself as a leader. Both he and Rodrigues each made mention of wanting to be a leader for all the first timers in camp. It's a good sign that the right message is being delivered by the Buffalo Sabres and an even better sign that the message is being received and acted upon.
Bailey says as far as he is concerned, the most important message he is trying to deliver this time around is that he can be a more consistent player who is reliable in the defensive zone.
Bailey knows his speed is his best asset when it comes to being on the attack. We saw that when he made his NHL debut at Philadelphia last season. I called that game with Rob Ray and we each noted that Bailey was one of the Sabres' better players that night. He showed for one night he could play with the big boys.
As Justin knows and said Wednesday, he has to show he can do that every night. Before moving onto the next group, I do want to mention one player whose passing and shooting caught my eye was defenseman Daniel Brickley, a 21-year-old invite from Sandy, Utah, who played for Minnesota State last season. I have been to Sandy many times to call MLS soccer games on Sportsnet TV/Radio and it’s a lovely place. Try Lambs diner when you are there one day. Just saying.
Group 2 took to the ice later in the afternoon and right away, the differences between them and the first group for me stood out.
Passes were crisper, more accurate. The shots were harder, more accurate. Those taking those shots and sniping those passes were the likes of Alex Nylander, Brendan Guhle and Hudson Fasching.
The players who stood out on day one should have stood out. They have been here before for this step on their journey. Now it’s their time to lead, to impress and show they mean business and want to be part of this Sabres build now, not later.
Hope to see you again for Thursday's sessions, which begin at 9:50 a.m. on HARBORCENTER.